(FWD) UK: heartlessness

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Wed, 16 Sep 1998 21:10:27 -0400


---------forwarded message---------
Wednesday September 16, 1998

Boy, 16, jailed over 'fare dodge'

Prison reform group condemns remand to crowded
adult prison

By Geoffrey Gibbs
Wednesday September 16, 1998

A 16-year-old homeless boy has been sent to an
adult prison after being charged with failing to
pay his rail fare, prompting condemnation by
prison reformers.

The youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons,
was remanded to Exeter prison, one of the most
overcrowded jails in the country, when his case
was adjourned for 11 days by magistrates in Newton
Abbot, Devon. He is due to appear before
magistrates again on Friday.

The boy is understood to have been in foster care
in Devon when he decided to visit his natural
mother in Manchester. He had hoped she would pay
his return fare, but she did not do so.

The teenager's solicitor told magistrates the boy
surrendered to police because he wanted the
charges dealt with so that he would be able to
join the army. The boy was accused of the ticket
offence and failing to give his name to an
inspector, and faced further charges of handling
two pairs of stolen socks and failing to surrender
to bail.

The Howard League for Penal Reform said it was
shocked by the decision. "We should not be sending
children to prison as the only way of feeding them
and keeping a roof over their head."

Its director, Frances Crook, said the organisation
did not take up individual cases other than in
exceptional circumstances but it would be putting
pressure on the boy's solicitors and on social
services to get him out of prison.

"This is wrong - we have to find some other way of
dealing with this child," she added. "This is a
child with emotional problems who wanted his mummy
and is in need of care. He has not committed any
serious or violent offences."

Devon social services, which is in the process of
establishing a remand fostering scheme to recruit
foster carers for young people awaiting a criminal
court appearance, had no one available to comment
on the case. The local authority has previously
criticised the practice of remanding young people
to prison because of evidence of self-harm,
bullying, drug use and sexual abuse.

Exeter prison, where 10 inmates, including two
teenagers, have committed suicide since 1990,
officially has places for 42 young offenders.
According to the Howard League the number of young
people being held in prison has increased sharply
since the early 1990s. Its figures show around 200
15-year-olds are currently being held on remand or
serving sentences, compared with only 20 five or
six years ago.

"There has not been an explosion in child crime,"
said Ms Crook. "It's a change in sentencing, a
more punitive approach by courts because of
political pressure by successive home secretaries
and public opinion. As a result, we end up with
cases like this 16-year-old who is a boy in need
of care and support."

=A9 Copyright Guardian Media Group plc.1998


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Graeme Bacque
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*Question and challenge *all* human 'authority'*
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